Monthly Archives: September 2012

She liked what I told her

Well, let me try and share what goes through my mind.

I’ve never told anyone they lack talent. I’m careful to address just the text in front of me. I do try to tell people what I think will be most help to them, I try to understand where they are in the learning-to-write-fiction process and address that, but it’s all about the text they’ve produced, not about them. That’s exactly what was going through my mind when I made the suggestions I did about your piece.

If some people have reached the conclusion they are not going to be able to get where they want to go in fiction and have left, and I’ve been part of that process, then that’s great, too. I think self-determination is a wonderful thing, and everyone gets to do whatever they choose (within reasonable limits). If someone said “I don’t like this, I don’t like the way it makes me feel, I don’t like what it’s doing to me, I’m going to do something else” and they are talking about working for Mobil-Exxon everyone would say, “Great, go! Seek out your destiny!” But if it’s a post on a writing site, everyone (well, almost everyone) immediately tries to talk them out of moving on to something that may well provide them with a lot more satisfaction out of life. One of the things I have seen in my life is a lot of people holding onto an impossible dream far too long and ending up not happy with the result.

All criticism feels like humiliation. At least it does until you get used to it, stop internalizing it and realize that it’s not about you, it’s about those words on a page over there entirely outside yourself.

I don’t know (the analysis hasn’t been done) but my crits are probably among the most frank and candid generally offered up. Sometimes I go quite a way out on this limb or that, and sometimes it feels scary to me, but usually I do it anyway. Seems to me it’s the only sensible way to be (and, of course, the honest way to be). I try to follow that Sixties dictum: let it all hang out.

If you’re trying to write a novel you can get published, then every crit feels like a set-back.

But if you’re simply trying to learn how to write really effective dynamic fiction, then every crit feels like a helping hand moving you along in that process. And looking at it this way, I think you’re more likely to end up at some point with the novel somebody wants to publish.


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